Access to Environmental Justice in Oil Pollution and Gas Flaring Cases as a Human Right Issue in Nigeria
62 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2013
Date Written: November 28, 2011
Nigeria, the most populous nation in black Africa, rich in oil and gas reserves but underdeveloped has her own share of environmental problems which justify local and international attention. In terms of Nigeria’s environmental problems, the four broad issues being accorded highest priority are the following:
1. Ensuring sustainable industrial production: With the exception of the petroleum industry, most industries do not have waste treatment systems. The few treatment plants that do exist either are not functioning as a result of over use or lack of proper servicing or are unable to cope with the vast amounts and types of industrial effluents passing through them. The real challenges of industrial pollution can be identified thus: (a) air pollution (gas or particle emissions), especially from the cement, steel and asbestos industries; (b) land and water pollution -- effluent discharged onto land and into water has become a great concern, particularly in view of the epidemic tendencies of such pollution. The pharmaceutical, chemical, textile, food processing and oil industries are the major polluters; and (c) noise pollution.
2. Preventing and reversing desertification: Nigeria has lost about 351000 square kilometres of its land to the desert, and the desert is advancing at a yearly rate of 0.6 kilometres. Desertification is the most important problem for northern Nigeria. Entire settlements, and in some cases major access roads, were buried by sand dunes in some parts of the north quite recently.
3. Managing forest, wildlife and natural resources: Deforestation and loss of wildlife resources are problems throughout the nation. Deforestation affects timber production and the production of non-wood products (such as medicines, food and paper) that are obtained from the wood. There has been a ban on the export of wood obtained from natural forest since 1976, but much of the deforestation that occurs is the result of using wood for domestic purposes.
Hunting is a major cause of loss of wildlife. There is a need to protect wildlife and biodiversity by specifically providing for the protection of certain species and areas that are of scientific, recreational or aesthetic value.
4. Combating floods and inland and coastal erosion: Nigeria’s coastal resources have been greatly damaged by erosion and this has had severe financial consequences. Research into methods of controlling floods and erosion is being promoted. The need to use law as a vehicle in the regulation, management and protection of the environment has thus become paramount. The importance of the environment to humankind, the consumer of the environment cannot be over emphasized. In view of the fact that the environment is a major source of national and international development, it must be protected from pollution, degradation or damage. Since a pollution of the environment could result in its decay, which will ultimately affect meaningful social and economic development as well as the quality of life of humankind and other species of biodiversity, environmental law prescribes litigation to protect and preserve the environment from any misuse, abuse or destruction. And this is made possible by the law in the light of the violatory provisions of the municipal jurisprudence, coupled with the array of multilateral environmental treaties and rules of international law. Aggrieved parties therefore resort to environmental litigation in accordance with the procedure laid down by law. It is through litigation that courts enjoy their unique role in upholding the environmental rule of law.
It is against this background that this paper seeks to realize the following objectives:
1. To examine the nature and scope of access to environmental Justice;
2. To analyze the liability regime in oil pollution and the role of the Judiciary in promoting the rule of law in regard to principle;
3. To determine the nature of environmental litigation;
4. To examine judicial approach to some of the common problems that arise in the different types of environmental litigation, including issues of locus standing, representative suit, jurisdiction, burden of proof and judicial remedies;
5. To highlight the trend in public interest litigation in other jurisdictions;
6. To conclude with some recommendations.
Keywords: Environmental, Justice, Oil Pollution, Gas Flaring, Cases, Human Rights, Nigeria
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation